A paranoid schizophrenic today admitted stabbing teenager Christina Edkins to death as she travelled on a bus on her way to school in the Black Country.
Killer Phillip Simelane was this afternoon ordered by a judge to be detained at a secure psychiatric hospital indefinitely.
But Christina’s family today demanded to know why he was freed from prison but allowed back on the streets unsupervised and free to kill Christina despite warnings over the state of his mental health.
Police have revealed Simelane was freed from prison less than three months before attacking the Halesowen schoolgirl.
Despite ‘warning markers’ on his police record and a previous threat to stab his mother he was not placed under any care following his release in December.
Christina’s family, who were in court for the hearing, called for answers as a number of internal reviews were under way.
Chris Melia, the great-uncle of Christina Edkins, tells the Express & Star about her life, finding out about her death, and his feelings towards her killer.
Simelane plunged a knife, between 10 and 12 inches long, into the chest of the 16-year-old as she sat on the top deck of the number nine bus in a random attack. He then casually walked down the stairs and stepped off at a bus stop.
Prosecutor Mr Peter Grieves-Smith said today: “Such was the nature of the attack, nobody else on the upper deck realised what had happened until Christina reacted.”
Passengers tried in vain to help Christina, of Ladywood, Birmingham, who was heading to Leasowes High School. A witness had heard her struggle for breath and say she had been stabbed.
Mr Grieves-Smith said Simelane had been on the bus for two and a half hours and when challenged by the driver produced a valid travel pass. It was later revealed this did not belong to him and the court heard he said he had got on the bus to sleep and keep warm.
Simelane, aged 23, of Walsall, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Christina on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
He had been accused of murder but the Crown Prosecution Service and Christina’s family accepted his manslaughter plea following reports on his mental health.
Superintendent Richard Baker said: “What the family want is to make sure that he’s not free to inflict the same kind of pain that they have had to go through, so regardless that some may see the plea on manslaughter as a more lenient sentence, the family certainly do not see it that way at all and they are satisfied with the outcome.”
Police said the reason behind his attack will almost certainly never be known as under the Mental Health Act he cannot be questioned.
But Simelane did admit to being ‘ashamed’ of what happened and apologised during a conversation with his defence lawyer before today’s hearing. Mr Ryan Russell, defending, said: “On last speaking to Mr Simelane I asked him to think about something he would say if he had opportunity to speak to those many people affected by this tragedy.
“This morning I asked him that question. Due to limiting responses, I was not confident of getting anything, however, I was surprised.
“Mr Simelane said the following, he said ‘I did not mean to kill that girl, I am ashamed for what happened and I wish to apologise.”
Police said Simelane had been released from prison on December 13 – exactly 12 weeks before he attacked Christina on March 7.
He was in prison for breach of licence with regard to vehicle interference and cocaine possession.
He had a total of seven previous convictions and had previously served a prison sentence for threatening his own mother with a knife. He also punched a police officer during his arrest.
CCTV footage released today of Phillip Simelane on board the bus
Police had received 21 calls from his mother about his behaviour in some 10 years. They included criminal damage and rows with siblings. On the Police National Computer, Simelane was listed as having mental health issues and being a suicide risk, but officers could not say when the ‘warning markers’ were added.
Christina’s family, who were wearing ribbons in her favourite colour purple, today questioned why the court system did not make him the subject of a supervision order.
Great-uncle Chris Melia said: “Now the family asks the question, ‘when this man was discharged from prison on December 13, 2012, why was the recommendation – made a few weeks earlier by mental health experts – that he be supervised after release whilst adjusting to life back in the community, not followed up?”
He said he believes Christina would still be alive today if Simelane had been properly supervised on release, claiming instead that he had been allowed to ‘drop off the radar’.
“As we understand it, it had been said by some mental health experts that he should receive some support and help or monitoring when back in the community and it just didn’t happen,” said Mr Melia. “The fact he had been identified as someone who needed help, seems to have been totally lost.”
Mrs Justice Thirlwall told Simelane: “The reason I give you this order is the nature of the offence and the fact that it occurred when you were medically ill and to protect the public from serious crime.”
She continued: “It is difficult to understand how it came about that someone with your level of illness should be sleeping rough with no-one looking after you.
“Anyone who has sat here and listened and read the many statements will be disturbed to read that you were living in the community with an illness of that severity, living rough with no medical help or any other help at all.”
Speaking to the family, she told them: “What shines through is that your daughter will always be cherished in the memories of family and friends and the wider world.”
Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Trust today said: "What is clear, is that there are lessons to be learned for us and others involved in the care of Phillip Simelane to prevent such a tragedy happening again in the future.
"As a Trust we are currently leading an external review, commissioned by Birmingham Cross City Clinical Commissioning Group, on behalf of all the parties involved and intend to report on our findings in December 2013. "